Evaluation of Outdoor Air Pollution in Drive-Thru Locations

  • Chinnaswamy, Anitha (Principal Investigator)

Project: Internally funded project

Project Details


Air pollution is one of the leading causes of mortality, claiming thousands of lives in UK every year. Although there is some limited literature on effects of pollution on outdoor workers, no study has evaluated the effects of pollution on drive-thru outlets. As vehicular pollution produces the highest levels of NO2 and PM that’s considered harmful to health, it becomes imperative to understand how this affects the drive-thru employees and users who are subject to inhaling this pollution over short-term periods or even long-term. An awareness of the scale of the problem can significantly impact populations’ attitude and behavioural change.

Air pollution is a major public health risk in the UK ranking alongside cancer, heart disease and obesity. Almost 2,000 locations across the UK have levels of air pollution that exceed safety limits.

In this study, AQMesh combo monitors were used that were mounted onto the back of vans and parked near the drive-thru outlets of 10 locations. Pollution levels were constantly monitored for 2 weeks and recorded at intervals of 15 minutes. The study found levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter peaking at many times the standard limit

The total number of exceedances of the pollution were calculated against the standard pollution levels. The data was analysed to highlight the number of times when the pollution exceeded UK/EU standard levels. There were persistent levels above the standard limit that would likely result in typical health effects, both short and long-term, as a consequence of high concentrations of air pollutants.

Although there are permissible standards set by the government no studies can assertively claim that an allowable level of air pollution as health can impact different groups of people differently. Vulnerable groups of people with underlying health effects can be impacted even at low levels of exposures. The knowledge and awareness of the population has to be enhanced by more dissemination and education.

The overall aim of this project was to measure the levels of pollutants to raise awareness among employees and users of the dangers of the deleterious effects of pollution; to highlight that employers have the duty to protect the drive thru employees from the harmful effects of pollution and employ proper precautionary measures to minimise exposure and hence mitigate any possible damage to health and well-being. In addition, the project also assessed the knowledge, awareness and behaviours of the population that could guide in wider education and enhancing information dissemination.

Key findings

This was aired at on BBC 1 Inside Out (in 9 regions across the UK) in February and received a lot of media attention.
Short titleDrive-Thru Air Pollution
Effective start/end date1/08/1810/02/20

Collaborative partners


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